All The Rage by Courtney Summers

Read this bad boy in one sitting – but I’m not confident that was by choice. From page 1 I never had the opportunity to walk away.

So I’d been looking for some darker reads. Something beyond edgy. I wanted to go over that edge – and see what lay down there. I was hunting raw emotion. That feeling like sandpaper went across the core of you – and everything is real and close and too much.

This book gave me all I wanted plus so much more. It brought misery alive, and let me stew in it.

Romy is in HS in a small town. Someone did something terrible to her, but no one believes her. So Romy is a joke. An outcast. And everyone’s victim.

You ride that ride with her. That’s what this is. Up close and personal with the person it’s okay to bully. She made up lies. She’s a whore. She’s not a human. She’s Other. And that means it’s okay to spit on her. To crush her. To mock her. You get a front row seat to the Coliseum that is high school, and Romy barely has a fighting chance.

The writing is superb. The story is difficult yet masterfully told. Romy is everything.

I generally avoid dark books and books about painful things. But I’m stoked my headspace led me here. I can’t wait for my next book by Courtney Summers.

Murder in Thrall by Anne Cleeland

5 stars

Okay. Realistically this is a 4 star book. But it’s my review, and I’ll do what I want.

I. Loved. This. Book. Like weird-girly-squeal loved it.

Plot summary thingy – Acton is a genius detective with a teeny mental issue. Doyle is a lowly cop. They work together. And a relationship develops. (There. That sounded reasonable, didn’t it?)

It’s a murder mystery. And a romance. (Hehehe. Sure. I’ll call it a romance.)

For me a good book is about the holy trinity – writing, characters or plot. Give me any one of those, and I’m a happy reader. This book gave me all 3. I’m not sure if I love Doyle or Acton more. I can make arguments for both. And the writing perfectly showcased their….nuances. Plus the murder mystery was fun.

The little Acton paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter were my favorite thing about the book. Each insight into his total weirdness was a treat. Ole boy is fucked-up as a soup sandwich, but I can’t get enough of him. Stoked for the next one!

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

3 Stars

This would have been a 4 star read if Alice had stayed true to Alice. I’m all about growth – but not where it waters the book down.

Alice gets cancer in high school. She’s dying – and she uses her last year on earth to exact petty high school revenge. And to emphasize her true assholery she convinces the nice boy who loves her to help her.

The emotions were basic and surface level. The writing was decent. Alice was fun in that she was different. You pay attention to a character who chooses to spend her final days doing horrible things to others and emotionally wrecking a nice guy.

But the awesome petered out. The author offered salvation – and it made me a little sad. I like that we had a character who was so shitty that she became likable. I didn’t really know what to do with Nice Alice. Oh how the mighty sociopath has fallen.

You by Caroline Kepnes

So this book was super brave, and I give it props for that. I’ve even recommended it to people – and will continue to do so. But for me it flopped.

First, the POV was something else. A first person/second person hybrid? I’m not sure. Or first person only focused on one person? Either way – first person POV is close to impossible to pull off. You have to have a narrator who is incredibly likable. Or at least fascinating. Joe was mesmerizing – for about 50 pages. Then he was a boring myopic narcissist.

Second, the book started out intense. Insane. Bizarre. But you have to begin as you mean to carry on. I expected torture. Terror. Agonizing screams. A walk down the pathways of a demented and twisted mind. Joe quickly devolved into a 13 year old girl who over-journals. Whiny and self-absorbed are not compelling.

And finally, an entire book without a redeeming character is huge. I need a reason to read. Character. Story. Or writing. I could have loved Joe if he went balls-to-the-wall. If he’d been dark and clever. Instead he became a victim – listing his many injuries in his mind but not doing anything about them.

So while the book was brave – I suggest it wasn’t brave enough. Joe is no Humbert Humbert. No Raskolnikov. He doesn’t compare to the characters Palahniuk creates. If you’re going to go crazy you need to go big! Chaos. Rage. Sweaty ramblings at 2 am. Joe is a little more crazy-cat-lady than American Psycho. Sorry Joe.

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia

2 stars

DNF at p 67. This book rubbed me the wrong way from page 1. It was literally like someone was standing there screaming these words in a shrill panicked voice. I wanted to cover my ears. Even reading slowly didn’t settle the manic pace.

Rabbit and Alice are high-school aged twins. They both qualify for some sort of music competition in an old hotel. Rabbit is neurotic. Alice is a self-involved twit. That’s as far as I got. But 67 pages without a likable character is an eternity.

Maybe this would be okay for a teenager? Or someone a little more beeboppy than me. Because I couldn’t get the manic stressed voice out of my head – and reading this was miserable.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

What. A. Book.

The frustrating thing is that I’ve just finished an incredible book – and I can’t think of a person alive to whom I’d recommend this thing. I cannot imagine the intended audience for it.

The book is huge. Dense. Bizarre. I was prolly 200 pages in before I grasped the plot – and even then it slipped through my fingers at times only to be recovered chapters later.

And the writing! It was some weird, uptight, Jane-Austen-without-Mr-Darcy bullshit. Dryer than the Sahara. For several chapters I’d laugh and then think “shit. Was that supposed to be funny? Should I have laughed there?” But, good God, it’s clever. Sharp as a razor. Absolutely brilliant. Genius-level world building. This book is Other. An actual masterpiece.

Quick plot summation – Mr Norrell is a magician and a dick. Mr Strange is a magician and a flake. They meet. They do magic. They create huge problems. They fight. They have to fix the huge problems. And the ending is blindingly perfect. I set the book down and stared at nothing for 2 minutes – in awe of what I’d experienced.

So if I ever come across someone who says “AR, I need a recommendation. I love Anna Karenina and Crime and Punishment. Jane Austen would be perfect if she’d get rid of all the romance. I want a book that combines the prose and emotion of the Russian masters but is fantasy and 800 pages long” I’ll burst into tears. That will be my moment! I can proudly point them to Ms Clarke and her opus.

***Now to do the thing I’ve been dying to do for over a month. I’m going to read other reviews! I can’t wait to see what other readers thought about this beast. ❤

Dumplin by Julie Murphy

A-Dor-Able. Seriously.

I could pick this book apart easy peasy. But it just wouldn’t be right. There are big ole flaws – aggravating main character. Big plot holes. And it’s a bit shallow. But dayum this book was fun.

It’s a YA book. Sort of a romance. Mostly a lot of girl power. It has a huge heart and a sweet story line.

Willowdean is in high school. She’s fat. She likes a boy. She has a beautiful best friend and a beauty queen mom – in Texas. And, like all of us, Willowdean gets in her own way – ass over teakettle. Every single problem that she has is of her own making. And she’s a total asshole with no self-awareness. However, the entire story is so sweet and funny. The supporting case is lovely. Everything flows.

There’s not a lot of depth. There doesn’t need to be. I could have read the book in one sitting if I didn’t have court early this morning. I didn’t read any reviews beforehand (I usually don’t). And I didn’t read the book jacket (I frequently didn’t do that either). I say – when you’re ready for fun and aggravating and different and awkward and silly pick this book up. Give Willowdean a break and a chance – she deserves them both.